In some ways, making these mandolins is about finding the way back home, for the instrument and for myself. For years I had been working with other companies making Gibson-style mandolins, based on the designs by Lloyd Loar during the 1920’s—but had never been that satisfied with the outcome. I had spent several years running back and forth from the USA to China, Japan and Korea. At one point I relocated to China with my family to work as the product development manager for Saga Musical Instruments. I, as well as a couple members of The Northfield Workshop, developed hundreds of items, for dozens of companies, in dozens of countries. We contributed to the development of some fantastic instruments and learned a lot in regards to what we enjoy about instrument building as well as what we don’t. What we enjoyed was the thrill of getting it right, and getting it right together. What we didn’t like...well, let’s just say that trying to get it right thousands and thousands of times ends up undermining “getting it right”. We aspire to make the best instruments not the most.
Our Driving Principles
First, we want our company to be known for our quality and consistency. Each instrument is built with an exacting approach. We feel like we’ve developed our instruments to the point that they have a character in tone and aesthetics. We want to maintain that in each instrument. We also maintain a very serious dedication to the art and respect of the premier designs and instruments by Lloyd Loar. We’re here because he was and we know that.
We want people to know that we’ve grown up in this business traveling and living internationally, and growing as a team with different backgrounds. To us, this international foundation is what makes us good at what we do. Each person is able to grasp a different part of the tradition—be it selecting materials, or understanding the origins of Shellac and varnishing techniques, or wood carving, or creating and maintaining a production process, or…...you get the idea. It’s a big world out there and we learn a little more about it each day, in different contexts than we would if there wasn’t this mixture of personality and culture and the chance to all work together.
Our company is owned together as a group, with each member investing and each member sharing in the rewards. This makes us the same as many traditional shops and very, very different from most of the current international business ventures in the music industry. It’s simple, we all take responsibility for our small company’s work—so we all share in the results, good or bad. Aligning our interests, even those related to paying the bills, has meant a great deal to our development as a team and as friends.
There are many players using our instruments throughout the country. Some of them are multiple Grammy award winners, some of them are just good pickers that have come across our instruments at festivals and performances. The list of players is growing all the time and making friends is even more fun than making mandolins!